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WSAZ - Blogs - Brandon Butcher

Monday's "Bowling Ball" (and other thoughts) (update)

A look ahead to our next rain maker, and perhaps even a little something about a "solar storm" out there. Update - Aurora sightings!

Update below concerning auroras and geomagnetic storms...

Happy Friday everyone! Almost there... ;-)

Our rain of yesterday and last night is a fluid mover, and the models have been declaring a quick clear-out behind the front. The GFS computer model resolves a map that displays the relative humidity at the 700 milibar level. This level is usually reached around 10,000 feet above sea level, and is a great place to spot normal cloud cover (the thinking goes, if there isn't a lot of humidity here, then there won't be many clouds out there of the thickness that will block sunlight). So here's what we're looking at:

700mb RH - GFS - 8am FRI

The brownish (raw umber? burn sienna? who's a Crayola wizard?) color there refers to relative humidity values less than 10%. That's stacked up with the greenest green ("forest green", right?) which is over 90% relative humidity. Just to throw it out there, relative humidity values at the surface for our area almost never happen. Of course, we're not talking about the surface here...but I just thought I'd mention it. Here's what a hi-res simulated radar model resolves the data for the surface itself:

Hi-Res NAM - 8am FRI

The clouds are leaving in the above image, as rain continues to push south and east of us.

---Here Comes A Tangent---

Since we're going to be having a couple of days of dry (but colder) weather stopping by, I thought it might be nice to stretch out and talk about another topic. We've been covering this in our news, and it's been making news elsewhere as well: I'm talking about the recent "Solar Storm" that is impacting our Earth. This "storm" doesn't have anything to do with the weather itself, but it can impact daily life for sure.

This is what it looks like. Keep in mind that when we stare at the Sun (don't stare at the Sun), scientists examine it in other realms besides the visible spectrum. They look at its magnetic field, they look at it with ultraviolet imagery. This is how the Sun looked when the solar storm started (in UV image

The flare that started things off is that bright spot in the upper left. It's called a "Coronal Mass Ejection", and these things happen all the time. A lot of the time, they don't happen to be aimed at the Earth (we're kind of tiny, no offense). This time, it was aimed (not on purpose) right at us, and traveled the 93 million mile distance at a cool 4 million miles per hour. Anyway, what this is, is a 'geomagnetic' storm. So when all this energy gets here, instead of messing with our weather (troposphere), it messes with our ionosphere (our planet's geomagnetic field). The main threats these storms posess is to screw around with our cell-phone signals, GPS systems, satellite TV; basically anything that has to communicate with a satellite. We might as well call them a "pain-in-the-butt storm", and this one happens to be as strong as they've been in the last several years. There is one really cool thing that they can do, and that is create more brilliant auroras, and even allow those "northern lights" to exist as far south as the tri-state region.

I've got a map here that will allow you to see where the best viewing of Aurora might be. Since this geomagnetic storm will surely mess with us right into the weekend, maybe something will happen:

(You can click on the image for a larger version). So far, this particular storm has not lived up to expectations at all. Even solar storms can be a dud sometimes ;-)  Anyway, it's kind of neat to see the power of modern meteorology, astrophysics, and supercomputers all combining to give us something to look at for a few seconds at work.

Update - Aurora's are exploding across the northern tier, both last night and tonight as well. The actual impact of the geomagnetic storm had been rather unimpressive compared to its wake, that's for sure. Check out this picture from Iceland:

(click image to enlarge) Normally photographing Auroras is an act of silliness where someone leaves a camera shudder open for days and submits a still image as if it's that one moment in time and declares it was amazing (similar things are done in thunderstorms in the desert southwest where it appears there are a bazillion lightning strikes). Anyway, this particular image is so stunning because though the photographer did have the exposure open for this shot -- it was only for a single second.

And for those of you who like crazy models of incomprehensible astrophysics and supercomputers-- check this baby out: There's been another 'coronal mass ejection' (not as strong as this 'X' class one we're dealing with now, but a highly respectable 'M' class). Anyway... here's a model of how the geomagnetic storm is forecast to move throughout the solar system, and when/how it will impact not just Earth, but a host of other celestial bodies too:

(Again, click image to enlarge) Pretty neat stuff :-)

--- End Tangent ---

Where was I... Ah, yes, the "Bowling Ball". This is a concept in meteorology when there's a bunch of rotational energy in the Earth's atmosphere (called 'vorticity') hanging around someplace all by itself in a ball. We've got that very thing in the cards right now:

Vorticity - GFS - 8am FRI Vorticity - CMC - 8pm SAT

This ball of positive vorticity is the red blob in the southwest United States. I think it's important to show these two with drastically different time stamps together because it underscores the kinds of fits these puppies bring to meteorologists. Sometimes they just sit there for an extra day, or maybe just a little piece of energy comes out and heads east. When the main steering currents (jetstream) is way to the north, it becomes a tricky thing. As it stands, it may be all the way until Monday while this thing takes its sweet time on Route 66:

GFS - 2pm MON CMC - 2pm MON

Notice how the two models are not agreeing with each other about when and how this energy comes out of the southwest. It's not necessarily surprising that they don't agree (especially in this situation), but I figured I'd give you a little 'inside baseball' as to what sorts of things are going on. Usually in these cases, a meteorologist would view additional models to break an impasse, or reject/modify/average them mentally based on how he/she thinks the physics may be better represented according to climatology and experience.

Okay, enough technical things for now... Time to enjoy some live updating data as we click away the hours to the weekend :-)

Temperatures HD Doppler Radar Estimated Rainfall Active Warnings
Current Temperatures HD Doppler Radar Estimated Rainfall Active NWS Warnings
Click For Larger Click For Interactive Radar Click For Larger Click For Larger

Have a great day everyone!

Morning weather update can be found here: www.wsaz.com/weather 


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